Belonging Again (Part 33)
"The Conflict of Society": How "Social Responsibility" Conflicts with "Social Possibility."
When we discussed how process and justice seem to necessarily oppose one another, we mentioned how we might be glimpsing “A Conflict of Mind”-like situation, and this is indeed what I call “The Conflict of Society.” This alludes to “The Conflict of Mind,” which titles Volume One of The True Isn’t the Rational, and it can be viewed as the social manifestation of that individual predicament:
“The Conflict of Mind”
When epistemic responsibility comes in conflict with epistemic possibility
“The Conflict of Society”
When social responsibility comes in conflict with social possibility.
Humans are social creatures, and so we are “always already” living and participating where both of these conflicts can and/or are occurring, but to the degree we feel and are bothered by these conflicts is relative to the presence of “givens,” difference, and complexity. “The Value Circle” and “The Conflict of Society” overlap, because the inability to ultimately “ground” values is why we must worry about “The Conflict of Society.” Yes, it’s arguably always with us, but with a “sense” of “Transcendental Grounding,” it’s “practically inconsequential” (we don’t feel it).
If x value could be proven with certainty to be “Transcendentally Grounded,” then we would be justified to remove “social processes” which made it possible for x and y values to coexist, because it would be “proven” that y shouldn’t be accommodated for (after all, x is “grounded” while y is not). Sure, if y could be verified to be “grounded” too, then both x and y should be accommodated for, but under this circumstance there would be little existential tension between x and y (even though there would still be diversity), for both would be “grounded” and thus could be secure in themselves. X would see that it “should” make room for y, and so making that space would easily not existentially destabilize x (x might even believe it has “something to do” with y, seeing as both are “grounded”). But where “Transcendental Grounding” is not possible, then it’s impossible for there to be diversity with the same level of “certainty” and “security,” and this means diversity and complexity shall cause tension and anxiety.
Furthermore, where “Transcendental Grounding” is not possible, that means both that every value has an “equal right” to “have a seat at the table” (of the social order), and that there is no “necessary limit” to the number of value systems which could be created. Yes, a value system which is shown to be “internally inconsistent” can be deconstructed, but if we take seriously “the problem of internally consistent systems” (as described in The Map Is Indestructible), then there are numerous value systems which are “internally consistent” and hence plausible. They cannot be readily or “justly” dismissed, which is to say every “internally consistent system” is just as justified to seek social participation and acknowledgment as any other “internally consistent system” (Christianity, Atheism, Hinduism, Pacifism, etc.). More details and explanations on this are provided in the conclusion of The True Isn’t the Rational trilogy, but the point is that the inability to know x is “the truth” means many values can make that claim, and it requires “social processes” to manage these differences. Thus, “The Conflict of Society” arises.
Where “Transcendental Grounding” is impossible, every “internally consistent” value system has an “equal right” to be socially acknowledged, and of course every value system will necessarily experience itself as being “the system” that should be most acknowledged, creating tension and the potential for conflict. No value system experiences itself as not justified to be “the value system,” which is to say every value system will experience the processes which keep it from achieving that status as “bad,” immoral, unjust, and worthy of deconstruction. This generates social tension, and though this tension is always inherent in any social order that isn’t radically totalitarian (at minimum in the distinction between the State and the individual), when difference and complexity are minimal before Pluralism and Globalization, the social tension isn’t strong or even noticeable — it’s easy to go about our daily lives as if there is no “Conflict of Society” at all. Yes, there is always a (potential) disconnect between our personal values and the values of our society and State, but when the State is small and/or the people who might run the country generally share our worldview (our values), then that disconnect doesn’t weigh on us. This disconnect is inherently more A/B than A/A (to use language from throughout O.G. Rose), which is to say it is paradoxical and impossible to fully grasp “rationally” (it is “nonrational,” actually), for allowing our society to differ from our personal values at all is to some degree morally and/or rationally unjustifiable. But this lack of justification is easy not to feel or notice when the society and State are “relatively similar” to us and our beliefs: though there is always socially the presence of A/B for us creatures who are naturally A/A, we do not feel the tension or notice the A/B until our society begins to entail “radical difference,” as it does under Pluralism and Globalization. And because we are in the same society as that difference, we are forced to “relate” to it, and that can make us feel as if “something alien” that we don’t fully understand is now gratified onto our lives. And we will not readily like this feeling. It will feel wrong.
Wherever there is A/B (paradox, compared to the “non-contradiction” of “A = A” or “A/A” for short), there is cognitive dissonance, for there is the tension of “The Conflict of Society” (which, again, is possible because of “The Value Circle”). But this dissonance is manageable and perhaps hardly noticed where difference is relatively similar. All values inherently seek non-contingency and/or infinity, which is A/A (as we will explain), but social orders are inherently A/B, meaning there is potential conflict wherever there are values and social processes, and if there is a society, there will be values. It naturally feels like our values shouldn’t have to win elections (for example) or be threatened by power or by losing power — it feels like our values should just “be,” and yet social orders which legitimize values are inherently just “processes” (which is to say social orders are systems of “becoming” and “processing”). This means there is a profound mismatch between the “being” of values and the “becoming” of society (“The Conflict of Society”), and thus societies are inherently unstable. But I stress that where difference is relatively similar, then values can “practically feel” A/A to themselves, for they are not radically confronted or challenged. Yes, Methodists and Baptists in a Christian nation can disagree, but the disagreement is not “radical” or “essential,” for both still believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ. “Radical disagreement” emerges between Atheists and Christians (for example), for they do not share metaphysical frameworks or value systems, and this is where it becomes difficult for values to “practically feel” A/A — the presence of the social system which allows for Atheism begins to be “felt” (versus just abstractly known about). As a result, we start to feel that we are in an A/B world, and we do not naturally like that: we naturally seek A/A. “Deleuzian Individuals” are those who expect and can handle A/B, but only a minority might be able to handle Absolute Knowing, suggesting a problem.
Where we strongly feel the A/B of society, “The Conflict of Society” begins to bother us, and we may act to erase that conflict by removing the difference which causes it (via authoritarianism, law, etc.). But society is that conflict (A/B), so if we remove the conflict (A/B), we will remove society and suffer effacement. If we don’t learn to live with “The Conflict of Society,” but instead try to solve “The Conflict of Society,” we will erase society entirely. We cannot solve our social problem, only manage it, but our brains naturally hate managing anything. We naturally want to solve tension, not learn to live with it (which feels like a defeat), and thus we are naturally vulnerable and susceptible to “The Conflict of Society” besting us and motivating us toward effacement for “all the right reasons” (according to our values). Especially where Central Power grows, Pluralism intensifies “The Conflict of Society,” and eventually the “cognitive bargaining” (where we accept A/B but naturally desire A/A) becomes too much. At this point, “The Conflict of Society” break us, and perhaps to “save the world,” we fall into the temptation for effacement.
Values are inherently pathological, not only because they suppress our instincts but because they seek “being” amid “becoming,” and that means we are all “always already” dealing with pathological potential. Again, if there was no “Value Circle,” we would not have to worry about “The Conflict of Society,” for a value system could be “Transcendentally Grounded,” and stop this conflict from occurring. After all, x value system could be shown to be the value system, and so the social order could be conformed to it and ought to be conformed to: there would be no conflict between “what was socially responsible” and “how social processes” occurred. But because of “The Value Circle,” we must deal with “The Conflict of Society,” as has been brought to our attention as “givens” have eroded due to Pluralism and Globalization. “The Real” Lacan speaks on is “the groundlessness of being” — it is not possible in finitude for there to be a process which finds and proves a “Transcendental Justice” (for example) and thus brings “The Conflict of Society” to an end. The debate must always be with us, and it will always feel like the debate shouldn’t be with us.